The Italian Greyhound dog breed is the smallest among the sighthound breeds, and is often referred to as I.G. Even though their diminutive size puts these dogs in the Toy breed category, they are hunting dogs with a strong prey drive. They were earlier used for hunting mice and rats, and, if given a chance, they can still chase their prey down with their great speed and galloping run. But these dogs are quite gentle otherwise, and can live in the city as well as the country, which makes them ideal family dogs, especially for quiet households.
The Italian Greyhound dog breed has been around for ages, but their origins are lost in antiquity. They carry the ‘Italian’ tag in their name because Italy is being considered their homeland due to their great popularity with the Italian courtiers prior to the 17th century. However, dogs of this type were found in Turkey, Greece and the Mediterranean areas as far back as 2000 years ago, as is evident from the art work from that time.
On their arrival in England in the 17th century, they became very popular in this country, especially with the royals, including Queen Victoria. During her reign, these dogs were at the height of their popularity, as most members of nobility kept these dogs as companion dogs. But the breed fell on hard times afterwards, and the World War II found it going nearly extinct. But this breed had been introduced into the U.S. towards the end of the 19th century, and the interest of some American breeders helped revive it.
The small-sized Italian Greyhound dog breed measures 15 inches or less at the withers and weighs under 18 pounds. With a slender body, long, pointed head, and long neck, they typically look like a miniature version of the Greyhound dog breed. Their tight-fitting short coat shows off their athletic body to advantage. These dogs come in various shades of cream, fawn, red, black and blue, with or without white patches on the chest and extremities. The thin, long tail is usually tipped with white. The ears are half folded, but stand away from the head, giving them a look of alertness.
Italian Greyhounds are typical hunters at heart, and will chase any animal that runs away from them. They can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour, but these dogs are not great for competitive racing because of their small stature and their susceptibility to bone fractures. They are known to sustain neck injury from pulling on the leash too. Their narrow head makes it easy for them to back out of leashes and run off.
Though they love to chase small prey, they generally have a timid nature and acts very reserved around strangers. However, they make great companions for the old and the young alike. They are not great as guard dogs, but their tendency to bark at unusual occurrences may help warn the owners of potential dangers.
Grooming and exercise
The thin coat of the Italian Greyhound dog breed requires minimal grooming. The coat is too short for brushing, so wiping with a damp cloth is sufficient to remove dust and foreign bodies. These nearly odorless dogs require just an occasional bath, once a month or so, to stay clean. However, care should be taken to brush their teeth everyday to prevent periodontal disease that may cause gum deterioration and loose teeth.
In spite of their small size, these hounds need plenty of activity, especially long runs to stay happy and healthy. Brisk walks and jogs can take care of the some of their exercise requirements. Since they can take off after a prey in an instant, they should not be left off the leash except in a fenced in area. Accidents are responsible for more than a quarter of fatalities in this breed. Their delicate body makes them prone to injuries too.
Italian Greyhounds can adapt to city life, but are more at home in large spaces. They can tolerate warm temperatures, but need protection from cold. These dogs are not suited for living outdoors, but should spend some time in the yard during the day.
Common health issues of Italian Greyhound dog breed
The Italian Greyhound dog breed is relatively healthy with only a few minor problems such as patellar luxation and occasional leg fractures that result from their fast running. Epilepsy and progressive retinal atrophy are also seen in these dogs. They are particularly prone to developing periodontal disease. Regular brushing and dental cleaning at the veterinarian’s may help prevent early loss of teeth.
Italian Greyhounds have a life expectancy of 13 to 14 years on the average, but many dogs are known to live for 17 years.